Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bloody big owls

Great Grey Owl (lappugle) - finally a self found bird

Ural Owl - niiiiice!

Paid birding work is not particularly easy to come by but a national systematic survey scheme called TOVE does pay. All routes close to Oslo are taken but 9 routes were available in Hedmark and I took these. The survey work has to start at 4am and should be finished by 9am leaving me free to bird in some potentially interesting areas for the rest of the day. And within the first 24 hours I saw Great Grey (lappugle), Ural (slagugle) and Hawk Owl (haukugle) plus Honey Buzzard (vepsevåk) and Ortolan Bunting (hortulan) so quality birding is I believe a suitable description ;-))

On my drive up I had an adult Hawk Owl at a known breeding site. I saw the nest hole but believe the young were already out of the nest and also out of sight. Also here I had two male Red-backed Shrikes (tornskate) that were clearly singing but were too distant for me to hear properly!

Next stop was the Great Grey Owl pair I know of. I saw two cars parked nearby when I arrived so approached the nest very cautiously as I didn't want to disturb whoever else was there. Wasn't really necessary as it was Roar "Mr. Owl" Solheim who was ringing the birds with two willing helpers. As I went up to them hardly believing my luck I was asked my name in a slightly challenging way but once introductions were made we had a swell time! I saw that they were holding an adult but took a while to notice the youngster sitting on a nearby rock. Apparently they had got hold of the youngster which had already hopped from the nest and then captured the adult in a big net as it came in to attack - this being a well used technique. Now, I think I have made my reservations about ringing and trapping of birds known before unless there is a very specific piece of research being carried out (which is why I like the use of GPS tags which deliver do much information for so few birds caught) but I have to be honest and say it was amazing to be so close to this bird. It was actually a bit of a dream like experience and I'm glad I have the footage to remember it by. That said though I don't understand why these birds need to be so brutally trapped as I don't know what will be done with any data collected and it was many times better observing the bird up a tree than in the hand.

Whilst the ringing was going on the male came in with food to three young that were still in the nest (although two were exploring nearby branches). I enjoyed the birds for a bit after they had been released but didn't get to see an adult come in again with food. The female who had been trapped was keeping guard on the ringed youngster who had been returned to a tree and actually called a few times.

I left them feeling very elated and made my way to my survey site where I managed four fitful hours of sleep before work began. This route was through mainly commercial woodland and was not very bird rich. I had hoped to come across grouse and woodpeckers but there was none of that going on! Best birds were a couple of Honey Buzzards with a male displaying and a singing but unseen Common Rosefinch.

After this I dropped into Norway's only (?) remaining Ortolan nesting site - this species is competing with Rustic Bunting (vierspurv) to see which will be the first species to become extinct as a breeder after Barred Warbler (hauksanger). I located three singing males - two were almost certainly unpaired as they sang constantly at each other but the third sang much less which may imply it was paired. Research had shown that for these outlying populations the biggest cause of decline is lack of females - the males return to their natal site but females wander and in a declining population not enough females make it to the non core areas.
After this I had a date with a Ural Owl. Finding them was not so easy though as the young have already left the nest. This spring seems to have been a very good and early one for owls of all species judging by how early the young of all species I have encountered have hopped out. I was sure though that the young couldn't have moved far and diligent searching eventually revealed an adult. It was first seen in flight gliding between trees and its subsequent behaviour clearly suggested there were young nearby and sure enough I found a youngster. The adult even made a barking sound suggesting it to be the female. I settled down to observe if there would be any activity although being the middle of a hot sunny day this was perhaps unlikely. An adult hooting was probably the male and then something made me look up from where I was sitting and there was a youngster right above my head! Although I did get to see both young and adults exceptionally well I really should pay an evening visit to see prey being delivered - some real action! Later on a Kestrel (tårnfalk) came and mobbed an adult (not caught digitally unfortunately) - awesome stuff!

Later whilst searching for more owls I had raptor purple patch with four Honey Buzzard, 2 Buzzards (musvåk) and a Sparrowhawk (spurvehauk) soaring together. But my good fortune was far from over. Determined to find my "own" Great Grey I followed some advice I had once read and drove the forest tracks close to Elverum and suddenly sitting only a metre from the road was a self found (edel) Great Grey Owl. I got to watch this bird hunting in a clearing in daylight before it floated away into the forest. This bird and also the ringed and released adult from the previous day perched in a peculiar way with its wing hanging down as though injured but it flew without problem.

My second morning of survey work provided little excitement and I then drove the three hours back to Oslo with high expectations for what next week will bring.

I will just post a few pictures now but will come back with more plus video which I shot a lot of. I also have a ton of pictures from Eilat which I need to get round to posting now that I am more or less finished editing them - maybe something for the quieter periods later in the year.
young (and ringed) Great Grey Owl

mum in the hand

same young Great Grey

mum after release with that same droopy wing pose

young Ural Owl. Like the Tawny Owls in Maridalen this had alreadt moved over 100m from the nest box although still downy and only half the size of its parents

mum! Although they were clearly aware of my presence the adults didn't make any attempt to attack as they are infamous for

male Ortolan

No comments:

Post a comment